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Allison Fine

Taking the Nonprofit Leap Into Social Media

Heather Mansfield’s new book, Social Media for Social Good: A How to Guide for Nonprofits does a great job of breaking down the brave new world of social media and making it accessible to any nonprofit manager. Her very tactical book is a nice companion to Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s Networked Nonprofit, which painted the big picture view of a new engaging mindset nonprofits need to adopt in this new social media reality. Mansfield’s book gives a down and dirty, step-by-step approach to becoming a savvy nonprofit in the world of Web 3.0.

Mansfield divides the evolution of social media into three stages:

  1. Web 1.0: The Static Web – brochure-like, non-interactive websites
  2. Web 2.0: The Social Web – social media applications, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, that create new communities
  3. Web 3.0: The Mobile Web – location-based communities, text-messaging, apps

Her argument is that nonprofits have to build their social media engagement in phases. They need to conquer stage 1 before 2, and 2 before 3. And all activities, offline and online, need to be fully integrated as part of a much larger strategic marketing plan. Amen to that.

For Mansfield, there is a real danger for nonprofits that ignore how quickly technology is changing. If they don’t adapt, they risk losing their donors, their relevance, and ultimately their reason for being:

To maintain your online donors’ loyalty, and to recruit new donors, you need to be current and forward-thinking in your online communications and fundraising. Technology moves faster than ever, and to keep up and ensure the long-term sustainability of your nonprofit, you must upgrade your Web 1.0 campaigns or risk becoming obsolete.

Mansfield’s ultimate argument is that offline and online activities must be fully integrated in a strategic way. She even argues that the “old” methods of online fundraising (email, website) actually have the highest ROI, so the idea is to gather people and drive them there.

Apart from this reasoned and necessary argument about social media as part of the overall marketing puzzle, the real value of this book is the very tactical how tos. Mansfield creates a great to do list for the nonprofit manager to move toward the next level of online integration. She also provides tons of examples of nonprofits that are doing it right.

My only complaint is that she doesn’t prioritize the most critical areas a small nonprofit (one with less than 5 staff members) should be focusing on. In her “Deciding What Social Media Tools to Use” section she helpfully suggests how much time a nonprofit should spend on each social media channel. Although this helps understand the value of one channel (Facebook) over another (Change.org), the total number of hours equates to 1.5 full time people. And that’s only social media activity, not email, mobile or website maintenance. That number of hours is something that only medium to large nonprofits could afford. Although volunteers and interns could supplement, most social media experts agree that you can’t really delegate social media to those who are only tangentially involved with the organization.  I would have liked to see her recognize the limitations of smaller nonprofits and give tips for prioritizing the time those organizations have to devote to social media efforts.

But overall, Mansfield offers a great and necessary step-by-step approach to overcoming nonprofit fear of the online world and bringing them up to speed. Because as she warns, “If your nonprofit is still in the should-we-or-shouldn’t-we stage, you are quickly falling behind. It is a Brave New Web, and it’s time to muster the courage and take the leap.”

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Financing Not Fundraising: Moving From Push to Pull

In part 10 of our ongoing blog series, Financing Not Fundraising, we are discussing moving nonprofits away from “push” fundraising and marketing efforts that force their message on innocent bystanders (like acquisition direct mail appeals) and towards “pull” activities that allow interested prospects to opt in to the organization (like social media, friend-raising events, partnerships). In times of increasing competition for supporters, nonprofits can no longer engage in ineffective, non-strategic efforts to get people in the door. Rather, nonprofits must attract people through engaging content, events and activities that encourage people to raise their hand and become part of the organization.

If you are new to this ongoing series, our Financing Not Fundraising blog series demonstrates that fundraising holds the nonprofit sector back by keeping nonprofits in the starvation cycle of trying to do more and more with less and less. To overcome this, nonprofits have to break out of the narrow view that traditional FUNDRAISING (individual donor appeals, events, foundation grants) will completely fund all of their activities.  Instead, they must create a broader, more strategic approach to securing the overall FINANCING necessary to create social change. You can read the entire series here.

First, let’s define Push versus Pull marketing activities:

  • Push efforts are traditional marketing activities where you create marketing or fundraising “messages” and distribute them through various channels and hope that someone sees them and responds to your call to action. Some examples of Push efforts are: direct mail letters to prospective donors, a brochure-like web site where you talk about your work and hope people hit the “donate” button, ads or articles in the local newspaper.
  • Pull efforts are when you engage and build relationships outside the organization, join communities and give people reasons to voluntarily draw your organization into their personal experiences. You’re not interrupting them, you’re not controlling the message or the channel. People are getting to know you, liking what they see and opting in to getting to know you and your organization better.

“Push” efforts are controlling and controlled, time and resource-intensive and yield low returns (direct mailings that get a 2% response rate are considered successful). “Pull” efforts are open and inviting and yield much better and longer-term donors because these efforts allow prospects to self-identify.

Key to the whole idea of Pull activities is that you want to find prospective donors who share your values as an organization and believe in the change you are trying to create. So many nonprofit organizations think that they need to mass market their organization. To the contrary, your message will not resonate with the general public. You need to find prospects whose values intersect with a community need that your organization is uniquely positioned (because of your core competencies) to solve, like this:

 

Pull marketing makes your job easier because you no longer have to look for a needle in a haystack, but rather you simply must be yourself, demonstrate your values and your work and join communities where like-minded people hang out. Introduce yourself and start building relationships. Social media is a fabulous and inexpensive tool for doing just this. And Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s book The Networked Nonprofit is an excellent primer on how nonprofits can and should completely rethink how they operate in the community.

So how does Pull vs Push marketing look in a nonprofit’s annual revenue plan:

  • Instead of pushing your fundraising appeals out to mass audiences through direct mail campaigns sent to people who have never demonstrated an interest in your nonprofit, start a blog that engages people who share an interest in your work to read, comment and become part of a community engaged in social change.
  • Instead of sending out invitations for a big gala to a bunch of people who are more interested in the food and entertainment than your work, start holding smaller, more intimate, mission-focused occasions for current supporters to bring friends to learn about the organization, volunteer and get involved.
  • Instead of just posting static articles about your nonprofit on your Facebook page, start asking questions and initiating conversations with your fans. Start getting to know them and start encouraging them to drive content, suggest activities, lead efforts.
  • Instead of putting up walls and engaging and collaborating only with a small group of advisors and partners, open your organization up to vast networks, partners, supporters and others who share your values and your work. Constantly seek out opportunities to find new friends and organizations in high and low places.
  • Instead of focusing only on what supporters can do for you, get to know them and figure out what you can offer them (opportunities to change the word, meet like-minded friends, engage in a broader community).
  • Instead of asking supporters simply to give money and volunteer, encourage and empower them to lead their networks of friends, family, colleagues, neighbors to get engaged with your organization as well. Make it easy and attractive for them to do that by asking them what they need, giving it to them, and then getting out of their way.

Pull activities require a complete shift in mindset. The messages and activities are not up to you anymore. You can’t control the outcome. Rather be yourself, build relationships, join communities and engage people in compelling, inspiring and interesting ways. Pretty soon you’ll have more friends and supporters than you know what to do with.

If you want to learn more about applying the concepts of Financing Not Fundraising to your nonprofit, check out our Financing Not Fundraising Webinar Series, or download the 27-page Financing Not Fundraising e-book.

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Financing Not Fundraising: Finding Individual Donors

In part four of our ongoing Financing Not Fundraising blog series, we are focusing on the most untapped, greatest sustainable funding opportunity facing the nonprofit sector. Individual donor dollars make up 80% of the private money entering the nonprofit sector each year, compared to 5% from corporate dollars and 12% from foundation dollars. Yet many nonprofit organizations don’t know how to effectively embrace the full opportunity of that market.

Here are five steps to get you started:

  1. Move Beyond Direct Mail. While direct mail used to be the only way to find individuals willing to support your cause, there are now many additional channels you must explore to stay relevant (email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc). Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s new book The Networked Nonprofit makes a fundamental argument about how nonprofit organizations can use social media to leverage people outside of the organization (donors, volunteers, supporters) to build momentum (resources, funds, mind-share, advocacy, etc) for their cause. If nonprofits more effectively used social media to build their networks, individual donor fundraising could be revolutionized.

  2. Don’t Separate Donors From Other Supporters. Just as fundraising is often sequestered from the program work of the organization, funders are also often kept separate from other organization supporters.  Volunteers are often left off funding appeals for fear of asking them to do “one more thing” for the organization. And funders are not asked to become volunteers or advocates. Instead of putting organization supporters into silos, open all opportunities to everyone. Better yet, ask (or allow) supporters to create their own ways to accelerate the work of the organization (like tapping into their own networks to help). Once integrated, the possibilities for building support are endless.

  3. Stop Fearing the Major Donor. Many nonprofit organizations would love to have major individual gifts coming in the door, but don’t know how to find and solicit those donors. The process, once understood, is actually pretty simple. You must identify, qualify, cultivate, solicit and, most importantly, steward donors. Use your board, volunteers, supporters to help identify and qualify people who meet three criteria: 1) belief in the organization’s cause 2)connection to a person at the organization 3)personal capacity to give at your major donor level. Once board, friends, supporters are involved in a well-defined process, major donors are sure to follow.

  4. Get Your Board Focused. Boards of Directors are often misused in fundraising. They serve on event committees, write grants, make cold calls, or seal envelopes. Instead of using them for these low ROI activities, give them one fundraising job and one job only: to help move major donors through the cycle outlined above. Even if board members don’t have networks of wealthy friends, there is still much they can do to help raise major donor dollars. Board members can help identify major donor prospects, uncover information about potential prospects, invite prospects to a cultivation event, go on a major donor call, send thank you notes or make phone calls. The board is a key part of your organization’s network, put them to their highest and best use.

  5. Do Away With the Pity Ask. To effectively raise money from individual donors, especially major donors, you have to move away from the pity donation and toward the investment opportunity. Donations and investments differ in every aspect:
    And investment opportunities are not only for the major donor. Even your smallest donor can be made to understand the broader impact of the organization’s work, how important their dollar is, and what the return on investment can be.

Individuals are able and want to do so much more. If nonprofits more effectively seized opportunities to engage and invest individuals, the sector could become more sustainable and better able to create change.

If you want to learn more about applying the concepts of Financing Not Fundraising to your nonprofit, check out our Financing Not Fundraising Webinar Series, or download the 27-page Financing Not Fundraising e-book.

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New Results in the Social Media Fundraising Debate

There has been much debate about how effective social media, particularly Facebook, can be at fundraising for nonprofit organizations.  An article last April in the Washington Post touched off a heated debate by claiming that the Facebook Causes application, which helps supporters of a nonprofit get their friends to donate, has not done much to increase overall fundraising.  As the article argued:

The Facebook application Causes, hugely popular among nonprofit organizations seeking to raise money online, has been largely ineffective in its first two years, trailing direct mail, fundraising events and other more traditional methods of soliciting contributions. Only a tiny fraction of the 179,000 nonprofits that have turned to Causes as an inexpensive and green way to seek donations have brought in even $1,000, according to data available on the Causes developers’ site…[and] fewer than 1% of [people] who have joined a cause have actually donated money through that application.

Beth Kanter, Allison Fine, and many others jumped all over the article and its analysis.  Their ultimate argument is that social media is just another tool in a fundraiser’s toolbox with which to build relationships with potential donors.  Just as you build relationships over time offline, you have to do so online, and Facebook Causes (and Twitter, and blogs, etc) are another way that nonprofits can spread their net and spread their message and attract followers who can help spread the net, etc.  As Allison pointed out:

Causes on FB enables us to tell our own world – distinct from the world –  about the issues, campaigns, orgs that they are passionate about. We can bring our networks of friends, our ingenuity, our passion, our time, our expertise to support causes.  It enables lots and lots of people to learn about causes and to share them with their friends easily, quickly and inexpensively…The bottom line here is that Causes isn’t just about raising money, it’s also about raising friends and awareness, and in the long run turning loose social ties into stronger ones for a cause may be more important than one-time donations of $10 and $20 dollars right now. Our rush to judge this application effective or ineffective over a very short time period with a primary user base of very young people is off base.

So I am rehashing this argument because an online fundraising company, Charity Dynamics, (which happens to be headquartered in Austin) has just had some revenue-raising success with a new Facebook app they created called Boundless Fundraising. This app allows people to extend the fundraising activity they are doing for a nonprofit into their social media profile pages.  Charity Dynamics just announced this week that the application has seen some pretty impressive financial results just in its first 6 months.  36 organizations currently use the app to increase support and giving for more than 2000 events, and they’ve raised $2.5 million so far this year.

That’s a pretty impressive number, so I asked Donna Wilkins, President of Charity Dynamics, how much of this is new revenue for these nonprofits, and she replied:

The great thing is we’re finding that about 75% of the donations are from new constituents vs a range of 40-60% for other donations for these events. Traditionally when someone fundraises for one of these events through Convio or Blackbaud, they send an email to friends and family requesting support.  The biggest hurdle for participants is sending the email and deciding who to send it to.  Boundless Fundraising application sends a newsfeed that all your Facebook friends see with just a couple of clicks. For most participants this means more friends are hearing about their participation and fundraising.  We had one great story where a participant told us she got a gift from someone and she doesn’t even know the person’s email address.  This is a great example of a friend of a friend who supports the cause. We’re also seeing that participants are now becoming multi-channel marketers and they’re asking for support both in email and on Facebook.  In some analysis you can see where a donor made a gift both in response to an email and through Boundless Fundraising.

So 15-35% (or $375-875K) of the money raised is new money. And that’s just in 6 months.  That seems pretty impressive to me.

The point is that social media is a new tool available to fundraisers.  It’s not a magic bullet, but it if you view it as a new, effective way to find and further connect with donors, you could be on your way to raising more money over time.


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Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 Fundraising, social media 1 Comment

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